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A slice of pizza has roughly 285 calories, 36 g of carbs, 12 g of protein, and 10 g of fats. Even if it meets your needs, be careful about the quantity. Too many calories can increase the risk of fat gain.
As a Registered Dietitian and someone who is currently in a bulking phase, I understand the struggle of having to add a lot of food to your diet. In this case, options like pizza can be a lifesaver – as long as you do it right.
In this article, we will discuss pizza for bulking. We’ll also detail how to choose the best pizza, when you should add it, and tips and tricks to get the best results.
Before we go into detail on the best pizza for bulking, let’s review the basics.
What is bulking?
There are three stages in body recomposition: cutting, bulking, and maintenance.
Bulking is when you are in the process of gaining weight, but most importantly, increasing muscle mass.
Muscle building is a very expensive process. It costs the body a lot of calories to form muscle. So, the body doesn’t supply calories for muscle growth unless it has enough to cover its basic needs and has extra laying around.
During a bulking phase, most of the increased weight comes in as muscle. However, there might also be the possibility of fat gain.
So, how many calories does someone need when bulking? This depends on your goals, needs, activity levels, and other factors. On average, men might need 3,000 to 4,000 calories for bulking, while women might need 2,000 to 3,000 calories.
If you are unclear about how many calories you need, you can use our calorie and macro calculator to give you an idea. While going to a health professional is always advised, our calculator can be a good start.
In general, I often recommend adding 300 to 500 additional calories to the maintenance requirements to get a good bulking requirement.
Clean vs. Dirty Bulking
There are two types of bulking: clean and dirty.
Clean bulking has a more controlled caloric increase. The goal of clean bulking is to gain muscle by adding healthy foods with minimal fat increase. To do so, you need to have a controlled caloric increase (300-500 calories daily).
On the other hand, dirty bulking typically means a higher caloric increase (>500 calories). So, foods with a higher caloric intake, such as fast food, are often encouraged to gain faster muscle mass.
Keep in mind that the dirty approach means there is also a higher chance of fat gain.
Pizza Nutritional Facts
Related: Good Carbs Vs Bad Carbs
The nutritional value of pizza varies a lot. It all depends on how it’s made, the ingredients, and the size of the crust.
The following table compares different medium-sized pizzas (12 inches) and their nutritional value. There are eight slices in a medium-sized pizza.
|Pizza||Calories||Carbs (g)||Proteins (g)||Fats (g)|
|Pizza Hut Cheese Pizza, Pan Crust||2040||218.0||85.2||91.7|
|Pizza Hut Cheese Pizza, Thin Crust||1730||164.0||87.7||80.8|
|Pizza Hut Pepperoni Pizza, Pan Crust||2320||237.0||93.4||110.0|
|Pizza Hut Supreme Pizza, Hand-Tossed Crust||2690||283.0||121.0||118.0|
It’s what your pizza is made of that matters. As we proceed further into this topic, remember that you always have to analyze a pizza from the bottom up. The quality of each layer counts:
- The crust. How thick is it, and what type of flour is it made of?
- The sauce. Is it fresh or does it contain added sugar?
- The cheese. Is it real cheese, or “processed cheese food?” Is the cheese low-fat?
- The toppings. Are you going for veggies and lean meats, or processed meats like pepperoni and sausage?
Is pizza good for bulking?
Related: Good Fat vs. Bad Fat
Yes, pizza is good for bulking since it can provide a lot of calories. This makes it easier to reach your increasing caloric intake goals. It can also be a good source of protein, which can help with muscle growth.
Most people think that pizza is only good for dirty bulking. However, it can also be used for clean bulking, as long as you are careful with the slices, crust, and toppings.
There are ways where you can include a good slice of pizza and still be clean bulking. It’s just a matter of making smart choices. Coming up, I’ll share a lot more guidance on choosing the right kind of pizza.
Why is pizza good for bulking?
So, we’ve established that pizza is good for bulking. But, why is pizza a good option for gaining muscle mass? Let’s take a look.
One of the biggest benefits of pizza is that it is high in calories. While it might sound easy to do, reaching a caloric surplus with fresh ingredients can be challenging.
There might even be a point where you are feeling too stuffed to move or breathe (I’ve been there).
Since pizza has a lot of calories, it can make it easier to reach a caloric surplus without feeling like you need to unbutton your pants after eating. There’s less of a chance you’ll need to force yourself into eating large quantities. This makes digestion easier, too.
Most people are scared of carbs, but you need carbs for muscle growth. Muscles store glycogen, a type of carb used for energy when exercising. When you work out, these stores are depleted, meaning you need to restore them to promote recovery and be ready for the next session.
Carbs are essential to restore glycogen stores. In fact, without a good carb intake, the body might use proteins as an energy source instead of muscle building.
Since pizza is high in carbs, it can be a good option to help replenish glycogen stores and support muscle growth.
Protein plays a crucial role in muscle growth. After all, muscles are made up of protein. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends having an intake of 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of body weight.
However, some studies don’t find any additional benefits beyond 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram, so this can be a safe protein intake. So, for someone who weighs about 200 lbs. (90 kg), this would represent a protein consumption of 144 grams of protein daily.
For some, reaching this amount can be tough. If you don’t want to rely on protein shakes and bars to reach it, pizza can be a good way to increase your protein intake without feeling too stuffed.
For example, a slice of cheese pizza provides 12 grams of protein. If you eat three to four slices, you would get 36 to 48 grams of protein, which can be enough for a meal.
Finally, pizza is fairly accessible and easy to get. In many areas, you can find a pizza place almost on every corner. So, if you don’t know what to eat, ordering a pizza can be a safe bet on foods that can help you reach your bulking goal.
What makes pizza bad for bulking?
While pizza can be a good option for bulking, there are some things to watch out for. The following factors can influence your chances of bulking success.
Eating this type of pizza too often can result in an increase in inflammation, which can affect recovery and, ultimately, cause poor muscle growth.
Another problem with pizza is that you cannot always control the macros. It can be too high in carbs and fats with a lower protein content.
Most people might need to add more protein to help cover their needs and make adjustments to avoid exceeding the recommended intake. This means you’d need to research every pizza near you, or make your own. Both require time and planning.
Excessive Caloric Intake
For bulking, you need to be in a caloric surplus, but eating too many calories can also increase fat mass.
While it might be inevitable to gain some fat while bulking, having a more controlled approach (clean bulking) can significantly reduce the amount of fat gained.
So, if you are not careful and eat an entire pizza, yes, it helps increase the calories, but it can increase them too much.
Lack of Micronutrients
Finally, pizza is very low in micronutrients since it contains mostly processed ingredients. It also lacks vegetables, making it a low-micronutrient food.
While you need to focus on calories and macros for bulking, remember that the body also needs micronutrients to function properly.
For example, vitamins from the B complex help convert the food you eat into usable energy, making them essential for muscle growth.
What time should I eat pizza when bulking?
The best time to eat pizza is either after a workout or three to four hours before a workout. Since pizza is high in calories and fat, it can be too difficult to digest right before a workout.
Eating it right before a workout might make you feel more sluggish or increase the risk of stomach cramps, bloating, and gas.
After a workout, the muscles are more receptive to a high-carb meal since insulin is more sensitive. As a result, it can be the ideal time to include pizza.
Best Pizza Toppings for Bulking
As we’ve seen, pizza can be a good option for bulking, but it all depends on the ingredients you add. So, what are some of the best pizza toppings for bulking?
Lean Protein Sources
Processed meats are not the best quality protein. They are high in saturated fats, sodium, and can lead to more inflammation. So, instead of choosing processed meats (sausage, pepperoni, ham, and bacon), choose lean protein options such as:
- Prosciutto (not cured in nitrates, making it a healthier option)
To increase the nutrient intake, make sure the pizza has a good amount of vegetables. Some great options include:
- Bell peppers
In reality, you cannot go wrong when it comes to vegetables. They are a low-calorie food with a high nutrient content.
Most fats in pizza come from saturated sources, which are not so good for heart health. Try adding more unsaturated fats, which are healthier and better for the heart.
However, there are not too many options to choose from when it comes to pizza. Great options include olives and olive oil.
Cheese is a difficult topic and choice. Most cheeses used are high in fat since they are easier to melt. Choosing low-fat options won’t give you that cheesy and gooey feeling. So, if you can make adjustments to choose a low-fat option (low-fat mozzarella), perfect!
If not, here is where you can balance the pizza by making healthier choices in other toppings. For example, instead of choosing pepperoni (high in saturated fat), choose chicken. This way, you create a balance between the high-fat cheese and a leaner protein option.
Spices and Herbs
Finally, herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor without increasing the calories too much or adding unhealthy options. You can add any dried herb or spice of your choice, such as chili flakes, garlic, onion flakes, oregano, or basil.
Make sure to choose natural options instead of processed ones since the latter can be high in sodium.
Pro Tips for Eating Pizza While Bulking
We’ve covered a lot regarding pizza while bulking. But before we go, how can you make sure the pizza you choose won’t mess up your results?
Here are some professional tips for eating pizza while bulking.
Choose the Right Crust
The first thing you need to do is choose the right pizza crust. Always choose whole grains over refined ones. This will provide more nutrients and steadier energy levels.
Also, think about how many carbs and calories you want to have coming from pizza. If you don’t have a very high surplus, choosing a thin-crust pizza can be a good way of adding calories, but not too many.
Load Up On Vegetables
Remember that pizza doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients or vegetables. Add more vegetables to the pizza when possible to boost the nutrient intake.
If you don’t like to add vegetables to the pizza, you can always have a side salad. This way, you get the pizza and the nutrients at the same time. You can even add protein to the salad to boost the protein content.
Control Portion Sizes
While you need to eat more while bulking, you still need to be careful of eating too much. Have an action plan and determine how many slices of pizza fit your caloric intake and macros.
Typically, three to four slices are enough for most people.
Try Making Your Own Pizza
Finally, the best way to control the calories and macros you have from pizza is to make it yourself. While this might sound tedious, there are shortcuts to make it easier and faster.
For example, instead of making a crust from scratch, use whole grain pita bread.
If you’re bulking, pizza can be a good option if you want to increase the calories without feeling too stuffed.
With that said, there are some things that you need to consider when using pizza as a tool for bulking. Choose the toppings wisely; we want to add calories but also nurture the body. Muscle growth needs calories and macros, but also micronutrients.
Also, if you find it to be too low in protein, you can add a salad with protein on the side, or have a protein shake to compensate for the lower protein content.
So, what is your favorite pizza when bulking? Let us know in the comments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is pizza good for bodybuilding?
Yes, pizza is good for bodybuilding since it can provide a lot of calories and the right macros, helping you reach your daily requirements.
Is pizza bad for bulking?
No, pizza is a good option for bulking since it is high in calories. However, you need to be careful on the toppings since some are not the highest quality and can affect recovery due to lack of micronutrient intake.
What foods to ignore when bulking?
Foods high in calories and low in nutrients are not the best for bulking. For example, highly processed pizza, burgers, or fries can be eaten once in a while, but try not to rely on them to help you reach a caloric surplus.
What foods are best for bulking?
The best foods for bulking are those high in calories and high in nutrients. For example, healthy fats are some of the best foods to help you reach a caloric surplus. Try adding avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, and oils.
Is pizza good after a workout for bulking?
Pizza can be a good post-workout meal since it is high in calories, protein, and carbs. However, make sure to choose high-quality ingredients to provide nutrients to support recovery.
Is pizza good before a workout?
No, pizza can take too long to digest. Eating it before a workout can result in an upset stomach, bloating, and feeling sluggish, all of which can affect your performance while training.
Does pizza kill gains?
No, pizza can be a great way to improve gains since it is a high calorie food. However, eat it in moderation to avoid too much fat gain.
Is pizza good for muscle recovery?
Depends on the toppings. If it is high in protein with plenty of vegetables, it can provide enough nutrients for muscle recovery. However, if you choose low-quality meat options (processed meats) with little to no vegetables, it will not be a good option for muscle recovery.
Is pizza good for protein?
Yes, pizza can have a good protein content but it all depends on the toppings. Choose lean protein options such as chicken, beef, shrimp, salmon, and cheese if you want to boost the protein intake.
Is pepperoni pizza good for bulking?
While pepperoni pizza can provide a lot of calories, it is also high in fat and sodium, so it’s not a great option for bulking. Too much salt can lead to water retention, and the lack of nutrients can affect muscle recovery.